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November 17, 2012

Obama, Congress to Continue Negotiations on 'Fiscal Cliff'

by VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama will resume negotiations with congressional leaders later this month to try to resolve crucial government financial issues before the end of the year.

Obama is on a three-nation trip to Asia beginning Sunday in Bangkok. Aboard the president's plane Saturday, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Obama is expected to meet again with lawmakers during the week beginning November 26 for further discussions on resolving the looming debt crisis known as "the fiscal cliff."

Obama returns to Washington from Thailand, Burma and Cambodia on Wednesday, a day before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, a time when many lawmakers would be unavailable or away from the capital, spending time with their families in their home districts.

President Obama and four congressional leaders started negotiations on the debt issue on Friday. Both sides described their talks at the White House as constructive, but Saturday's announcement by the president's spokesman was the first indication when the meetings might resume.

By January 1, the U.S. government must enact sharp spending cuts and tax increases that together would produce about $600 billion, unless Congress and the White House can reach an agreement before then on how to reduce the multitrillion-dollar U.S. debt. The term "fiscal cliff" symbolizes the financial precipice that looms at the start of the new year.

Should the two major political parties be unable to resolve the financial impasse in time, experts believe there would be serious consequences for the national economy and government services to the public: spending restrictions would force sharp cutbacks in many key defense and domestic programs, and all American wage-earners would face an immediate large increase in income taxes beginning in January.

In his weekly address to the nation Saturday, Obama urged Congress to pass a law preventing the January 1 automatic tax hike.  Obama said the middle class should not be held "hostage" while Congress debates tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year.



In the Republican address, Senator Kelly Ayotte said eliminating wasteful spending should be a first option instead of raising taxes, because that would be less harmful to the economy, especially for small businesses and people looking for work.



Speaking in Singapore Saturday as part of a tour of Asia and Australia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to ease Asian worries about the "fiscal cliff."

Clinton said the full faith and credit of the United States should "never be in question." Although she hears concerns about the global implications of America's economic choices, Clinton said the world must remember that, despite political differences, U.S. national leaders are united in their commitment to safeguard America's position in the world and bolster national security. Reaching a meaningful budget deal, she added, is critical to both those goals.

Singapore was the first Asian stop on Clinton's tour. She will join President Obama on his stops in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.